Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Nomination of Major General Robert T. Clark to be Lieutenant General

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

NOMINATION OF MAJ. GEN. ROBERT T. CLARK TO BE LIEUTENANT GENERAL

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I thank Senator Levin for his work on this issue, and Senator Warner's efforts as the Chairman. Senator Levin and Senator Warner have discussed this issue in great detail. Senator Warner made clear he was going to take it seriously, that there would be ample opportunity to evaluate any questions that arose from these terrible circumstances, and that the facts would come out in committee and could be presented forthwith. That was done. We heard all of the information that was available. I would note it is time, now, to move forward.

General Clark's nomination has been blocked for over a year now. He is a tremendously fine soldier. He is just not the one responsible here. I also should note that I do not think it is correct, as some have indicated, to say people who fail to adhere to DOD policy get promoted. General Clark acted aggressively against the climate and the actions that resulted in this terrible murder.

In July of 1999, PVT Barry Winchell was a member of the 502nd Infantry Regiment. He was murdered in his bed as a result of a brutal assault by another private, Calvin Glover. Before his death, Winchell had been perceived as gay by Private Glover, and Winchell had complained about harassment in his company to superiors.

I should note that there was evidence that a platoon sergeant had made insensitive comments about gays, but there was not evidence of command responsibility in any way.

In December of 1999, after General Clark convened a court-martial and a trial was conducted, Private Glover was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and was given life without parole. The individual who was Private Glover's buddy, who obstructed the investigation to some degree, was given 12 years in jail, without parole. He is serving that time.

I know the Chair has served as a lawyer and clerk to Federal judges. General Clark was the convening authority for a general court-martial. He was the superior commander on a base with 25,000 people. We don't hold mayors responsible for crimes committed in cities of 25,000 people. In fact, one of the highest crime rates in America is among young males. So, what we have in this base is 25,000 of the kind of people who, statistically, tend to get in more fights, more crimes, and commit more murders than anyone else. That is my experience as a prosecutor. I think it is indisputable that that is so.

So it is therefore not possible for a commander of a 25,000 member facility or military base, to guarantee there are not going to be fights and even murders every now and then. Heaven help us, that they occur, and the climate ought to be set in a way that minimizes that. But we cannot hold every commander responsible for this, any more than we could hold a mayor responsible for a crime in a city.

But what I wish to emphasize is that the general took a number of direct and dramatic actions to indicate, without question, his revulsion with this murder. He clearly stated his expectation that everybody at Fort Campbell would be treated with respect, and that violence of this kind is unacceptable. He was quite strong on that point.

However, he was unfairly criticized for his actions following Private Winchell's death. The criticism was unfair because in the military he is the convening authority of the courts-martial. He is required, by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice to appoint the members of the courts-martial, and he has a duty to remain objective. He has to be careful that he does not conduct himself in a way that prejudices the officers he appointed to try the case.

I served as a JAG officer for several years in the Army Reserve. I know a commanding officer has to be careful because the defense lawyers who defend soldiers charged with crimes can raise, as a defense to the trial, that the commander had prejudiced the trial by suggesting the defendant was guilty before he had a trial.

General Clark testified at his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was in regular contact with his staff judge advocate, his lawyer, advising him what he could say, and what he could not say.

Some say he should have been more open, he should have been more condemning of this act, he should have been more aggressive. It is clear that he was acting under the legal direction of his staff judge advocate. In fact, his staff judge advocate was talking to the staff judge advocate in Washington, for the Department of Defense. They exhausted every means possible to ensure they conducted themselves properly. They sought to ensure that the trial was fairly conducted, and that if a conviction was obtained, as it was obtained, that the verdict would be upheld. It was.

I just would want to say this is not so easy, as some would suggest, for him to be really aggressive in making comments about this while a trial is ongoing.

Complaints were certainly made about his conduct afterwards. General Clark, who, if you met him, you would understand, is a man of great integrity, great decency, who wants to do the right thing, said: Look, I haven't done anything wrong. I believe I have conducted myself properly. But I am personally requesting that the inspector general investigate my conduct and my actions. I want him to come in here and investigate this situation to see if I have done anything wrong.

Of course, the IG did investigate. An IG team conducted a thorough investigation into the command climate at Fort Campbell. This investigation of the command climate found that Major General Clark was not culpable of any dereliction or failure of leadership, as has been alleged by the Service Members Legal Defense Network-SLDN-which is an advocacy group that works to protect and ensure that homosexual soldiers are treated fairly in the military, as they have every right to be treated. They have a right to insist that they be treated fairly.

It is important that people know about this crime. I know it is important that people understand how civilization sometimes is fragile and people lose discipline and do things they should never ever do.

To highlight the problem that occurred at Fort Campbell, and to take action by an advocacy group-or by the military or any decent people, or for the Senate to take action in order to ensure that these kinds of things don't happen in future-there is no illegitimacy in that.

One of the things that has troubled me in recent years in this Senate is that we feed on information that is sometimes provided by people who have an agenda. As a result of that, sometimes people are unfairly treated. Everybody deserves fair treatment. This private who was murdered did not deserve what happened to him. I also believe General Clark does not deserve some of the charges that have been made against him.

A few other points; This group claims that Major General Clark failed to follow Federal law. There is no proof of that. There is no proof that he failed to provide a safe environment for soldiers-in fact, that claim has been rejected. They claim that he failed to exhibit leadership necessary for further promotion. After the inspector general's reviews were done, that proved not to be so.

The allegations were that Major General Clark had allowed "significant levels of antigay harassment under [his] command," and that it allowed a command climate in which "antigay harassment flourished"; it was just not true. The Army IG found sporadic incidents of the use of derogatory or offensive cadence calls used during marching. These problems which were quickly corrected and stopped as soon as they were discovered. It was clearly established that anti-homosexual comments were not the norm at Fort Campbell.

There were allegations that there was anti-gay graffiti in the public areas around Fort Campbell. The Army inspector general found one latrine at a unit level and one in a public recreation center at Fort Campbell which had anti-gay comments on them. This was clearly not a common thing on the base. I suspect you would find these comments in some of the public bathrooms in cities and gas stations around America. It is wrong, but I don't think that should be something the general would be found to be responsible for. There is simply no way that he can protect against each and every one of those incidents.

It was suggested that he took no action to deal with this problem. I have one document dated November 30, 1999-not long after the incident that occurred-in which General Clark wrote his command. He sent it to everyone basically on the base.

Distribution A, Subject: Respect for all soldiers.

Paragraph 1: The soldiers in the Army today are the best we have ever had.

I certainly agree with that.

They are volunteers who merit our respect and they deserve to be treated with dignity in a climate of safety and security.

He goes on to say:

We can and will do more to ensure that our soldiers are treated with dignity and respect. I accordingly direct that:

All soldiers be briefed on the Department of Defense homosexual conduct policy upon their formal in-processing at Fort Campbell. When they come to the base.

They are to be instructed on this policy of treating people fairly and with respect. As an interim measure, every soldier at Fort Campbell will receive the briefing.

In addition, he goes on to note:

This instruction will also include the contents of the 25 October 1999 memorandum from the commanding general . . .

And another memorandum-both of which reiterate the roles and responsibilities of commanders regarding investigations of threats against or harassment of soldiers on the basis of alleged homosexuality;

Subparagraph (c): All leaders will vigorously police the contents of run and march cadences.

They have always been a little bit risque over the years. But the general took aggressive action here.

They will monitor the march and run cadences to ensure that they are positive and devoid of profanity or phrases demeaning to others.

Subparagraph (d): All leaders will vigorously police the content of training briefings, classes, lectures, and all other instructions to ensure that they are devoid of profanity or phrases demeaning to others.

Subparagraph (3) Respect for others is an Army value and a cornerstone of the discipline and esprit de corps and all soldiers will be treated with dignity and respect. Accordingly, I expect all Department of Defense, Department of Army and Fort Campbell directives, policies and regulations to be enforced by our leaders and adhered to by our soldiers.

Robert C. Clark, General.

This is a superb soldier who served his country well in Vietnam. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was wounded in combat and refused to be evacuated until he got others out of the line of fire.

He commanded the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, that great division, during Operation Desert Storm, the last Gulf War. His proven leadership is clear.

In the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College "Story of the Third Army in Desert Storm" by Richard Swain, published in 1994, he talks about how General Clark's brigade moved rapidly to cut off the retreat of the Iraqi soldiers, facing tremendously bad weather. It was so bad that motorcycle troops were mired down, but he moved successfully anyway and seized the objective before other units were able to.

He is a proven commander in combat. He is a proven commander in the peacetime Army. He has taken strong action to see that this kind of activity never happens again.

I am proud of him. I am also proud to note that he obtained his master's degree at Auburn University, one of America's great universities. I had occasion to meet him and to see him testify at hearings. I thought he did a superb job. There was little doubt of his sincerity in this matter and his capability to be a great general officer.

I thank the President.

I yield the floor.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Thank You!

You are about to be redirected to a secure checkout page.

Please note:

The total order amount will read $0.01. This is a card processor fee. Please know that a recurring donation of the amount and frequency that you selected will be processed and initiated tomorrow. You may see a one-time charge of $0.01 on your statement.

Continue to secure page »

Back to top